Friday, January 29, 2016

Notre Dame Preview

No program has had BC's number over the past few years more so than Notre Dame, who the Eagles will face-off against tonight in South Bend. Dating back to 2013-14, the Irish have won of 5 of 7 meetings versus Boston College, including a stunning 4-3 come from behind victory on December 10th in Chestnut Hill. Tonight's game will be a bit more intense as the teams are right next to each other in the pairwise and Hockey East standings.

Jeff Jackson's squad is the hottest in college hockey, riding a 12 game unbeaten streak dating back to a November 27th loss at home to Harvard. After the departures of Vince Hinostroza and Robbie Russo, among others, many figured ND would take a step back but they have done anything but that. Sophomores Anders Bjork and Jake Evans are leading the team in scoring but ND has talent spread all throughout their roster. That being said, the Irish are very experienced up front with four of their top nine guys being seniors. For comparison's sake, Boston College's only senior forward will be Teddy Doherty. Unlike past years when they had guys like Tynan and Lee, the Irish don't have one go to forward, they just have a lot of solid ones. They're right there with BC and Providence in terms of forward depth and although they lost their top blue liner from a season ago (Russo), Notre Dame has gotten tremendous production out of their young back end. Freshman Bobby Nardella and sophomore Jordan Gross are two of the top scoring defenseman in the league while also thriving under Jackson's system. In net, look for Cal Peterson, a Buffalo draft pick, to get the start. The sophomore out of Waterloo, Iowa has recorded a .927 save percentage and 2.15 goals against average so far this season.

I don't think it would a stretch to say this is BC's biggest game of the season. Forget about the Beanpot right now. If the Eagles win this game, they're not only giving themselves a tremendous chance at a #1 seed in the NCAAs, they will have completed the toughest part of their league schedule with 8 of possible 12 points versus BU, ND, and PC.  We know how good BC can be when everyone is on the same page but the problem hasn't been a lack of chemistry due to poor play, it's been the constant juggling of lines due to absences. The Eagles have lost just one game (RPI) with their full compliment of players available. I know you are all wondering about Santini and Casey Fitzgerald but I don't have an update so we will just have to wait and see what they come up with tomorrow night. Injuries aside, this is going to be a fantastic game between a pair of teams that have developed a fierce rivalry over the past few years. Every time you play ND, you have to be aware of their defensive trap and tendency to dump the puck in and hang five guys in the neutral zone. In the third period of that game in December, we saw them implement an aggressive forecheck that led to mistakes from BC and an eventual ND victory. Perhaps the Irish will stick with the same strategy. I thought BC did a much better job of avoiding the penalty box last weekend, particularly against UConn, but, they still gave up a game tying power play goal late in the third period. Even though they are not always known for their offensive prowess, Notre Dame has the 9th ranked power play in college hockey, led by the duo of Lucia and Thomas DiPauli. BC isn't going to win important games like this by spending the entire game in the box or allowing opponents back into contests with multiple power plays. It has been an issue the staff has addressed all year long and if they want to have success over these next few weeks, they need to stay out of the penalty box.

Scouting Notre Dame- 

Record- 14-4-7 (7th in pairwise)

Leading scorers- Anders Bjork (10-16-26), Jake Evans (5-20-25), Thomas DiPauli (9-14-23)

Team offense- 3.52 goals scored per game (11th)

Team defense- 2.28 goals allowed per game (15th)

Power play- 24% (9th)

Penalty kill- 83.7% (24th)

Shots on goal per game- 32.68 (15th)

Keys for the Eagles- 

1. If they have a third period lead, they have to finish the job. This has become a lingering problem as UConn was able to come back on Saturday night in Chestnut Hill. I know everybody remembers what happened in the third period the last time BC and ND played.

2. Change things up a bit in terms of speed. In December, BC was missing three key players-Wood, Tuch, and Calnan. If they have a mostly full lineup, especially up front, they can play at a much faster pace.

3. Coverage in front of Demko. Two of UConn's three goals were the result of poor net front coverage by BC.

Notes- Game is not on TV but ND has an online stream.

Go Eagles

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